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Richard Di Natale: We can’t ignore alcohol’s contribution to domestic violence

Leader of the Australian Greens Senator Richard Di Natale spoke at the launch of The National framework for action to prevent alcohol-related family violence,  which was developed by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) and launched by Australian of the Year Rosie Batty at Parliament House in Canberra on 17 June 2015.


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FARE have been a really vital presence in the national public debate around alcohol. The Foundation has conducted first-rate quality research, they’re put together a range of sensible and actionable policy proposals, and done a really good job of communicating their findings both to the media and to us as policymakers.

The issue of alcohol-related violence, particularly domestic violence, is known to all of us.

Alcohol is not ever an excuse for harming women and children, and should never be used in that way. But we can’t ignore its contribution to the issue of domestic violence.

When almost one in three cases of harm occurs as a result of alcohol, we know we’ve got a big problem.

There’s been a lot of talk about the role of alcohol in the cowards punch or king hit, saturation media coverage and a good strong response by governments. But we can’t forget that the majority of alcohol-fuelled violence occurs behind closed doors where no one is watching, where the victims are not able to tell their stories on the 6 o’clock news.

We need the same response to that as we have seen to the issue of street violence among young people.

Of course, alcohol is only part of the problem when we talk about domestic violence. We also need to fund legal aid services for women fleeing dangerous situations, to invest in emergency shelters, and to provide adequate funding and certainty to support services which are there to help victims.

I could talk for the rest of the day about the impact alcohol has on health and the many reasons that we need to address this key issue.

We need to continue building the evidence-base through research. But let’s not let that be an excuse for inaction.

Because we know what works. We know there are things we could implement tomorrow that would mean many women and children sleep safer.

Tomorrow we could introduce reform for a more rational alcohol pricing and taxation system. By addressing the issue of labelling, ensuring that when people consume a beverage that they are aware of the associated harms. Alcohol advertising and promotion, again something that we could fix tomorrow. And of course there’s the issue of availability.

We do know what works. If we know what works and know that the cost of implementing it is not a barrier, then why aren’t we doing it?

The simple answer is there are some very powerful vested interests who don’t want things to change. Those who benefit from the status quo. And that is a problem across a whole range of public policy areas.

There is no bigger glaring example of our democracy failing us, then our inability to implement sensible, straightforward, inexpensive reforms that keep women and children safe. And yet we sit here and we mouth platitudes and we do nothing.

So I say to both the leader of the Opposition and to the Prime Minister, let us work together to get this done.

We’ve finally got a weapon against those vested interests, something stronger than the deepest of pockets and her name is Rosie Batty.

Together, with you Rosie and with FARE, we pledge as the Greens to do the things that we know work and to ensure that more women and children can go to bed tonight and feel safe.

Richard Di Natale

Dr Richard Di Natale is the leader of the Australian Greens. He was elected to the federal parliament in 2010 and is the Greens' first Victorian Senator. His portfolios include health, multiculturalism, youth, gambling and sport. Prior to entering parliament, Richard was a general practitioner and public health specialist. He worked in Aboriginal health in the Northern Territory, on HIV prevention in India and in the drug and alcohol sector. His key health priorities include preventative health, public dental care and responding to the health impacts of climate change.

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